Combustible Celluloid

Interview with Courteney Cox

Calendar Girl

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

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Of the six "Friends" who have made big screen films, Courteney Cox is arguably the most successful with the three Scream films under her belt. Cult fans will remember her as the dancing girl in Brian De Palma's music video for Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," and in the feature film version of Masters of the Universe. Other than that, she has been conspicuously absent lately, save for a small part in 3000 Miles to Graceland and an even smaller part in this year's The Longest Yard. The many reasons for this are that she has been busy with motherhood, with being a spokesperson and with becoming a producer along with her husband David Arquette. Together they have a numerous TV shows, TV movies and other projects in the pipeline, and so Cox has been busier now than ever before. Her new movie November, though a low-budget thriller, should show off another side of her performance chops. November opens in theaters this week.

Q: I just realized I've been spelling your name wrong for several years now.

CC: It's an unusual way to spell it. It's my mom's name.

Q: How did this movie fit into your busy TV schedule?

CC: On "Friends," we would start in August and we would wrap in April. So we'd have May, June, July and April, really. So we'd have four months. But the producers were really nice and they'd work the schedule around us. This movie I did right after we finished.

Q: How was this experience different from working on a multi-million dollar TV show?

CC: It was great. [The budget] was $150,000. I think we used the producer's neighbor's house as hair and makeup. There was no dressing room. We were roughing it, but we were so into it. It didn't feel like we were roughing it -- we were enjoying it.

Q: You usually play control freaks like Monica and Gale Weathers (Scream). This character was very passive, but interestingly so.

CC: It's a more different character than I've ever played before, but it's a little more like me in some ways. I'm not always such a control freak. I am controlling, but I am more passive than Monica.

Q: This character goes through so many stages and different realities. How difficult was it to keep track of it all?

CC: Her whole life is flashing before her eyes, and she has a lot of things to go through. She starts out with guilt, and grief and resolution. So there's a lot of things that she does in a small amount of time, and it was just something -- I'd never read anything like that. It's a puzzle movie, a little like memento. But I loved playing that character. It was just a lot in your head and trying to figure it out. Every day I'd get together with the director, 'where are we in this stage of life flashing before her eyes?' I don't know if you noticed, but there were subtle changes in the wardrobe. I'm wearing this scarf... My purse would get a little brighter when I was accepting. Even my lipstick changed.

Q: They say you met with director Greg Harrison for several hours when you first accepted the role. What did you talk about?

CC: I'm the kind of person that really needs to understand why I'm doing something in order to be free and do it -- even if it's a horror film with Wes Craven. Sometimes they just say, "Courteney, shut up and do it." But with Greg, he really indulged my need-to-know behavior. It was something I really needed to do with this character because it's a puzzle movie.

Q: Did you have all your questions answered beforehand, or was there more discussion on the set?

CC: We only had 15 days -- when that's all you have you'd better be prepared.

Q: In November, you play a photographer, and you made it look real. Are you a photographer in real life? Did you do any research?

CC: I bought a very expensive camera that I was better at using during the film, and now I can't remember at all how to use it. Nothing is auto. There's not one bit of auto. There's a lot of stuff. At the time, I bought this camera and really practiced with it and bought photography books, but it's weird -- it's not like riding a bike, it's like learning a language. If you don't keep it up, it's hard to remember. So I need to get back to it.

Q: Are any of your photos in the finished film?

CC: I think some of them might have been. I was covered, in case I wasn't too good.

Q: Rumor has it that you're easily bored...

CC: I'll do a master of a scene, and I'll think, 'it's the greatest thing -- acting is the most fun, most challenging, most fun, exciting thing.' And then they come in for the close-up and 'it's just great.' And then they turn around for the other close up, and 'it's great.' And then they say we're going to break for lunch and then come back to the scene. And it's like, 'haven't we finished yet?'

Q: How old is your baby, and what do you have coming up now that you're back in the game?

CC: Coco's 10 months. She's really sweet. Since I've had the baby, I just started getting back to acting. I'm doing a film this summer with Tim Allen, called Zoom, that's shooting in Toronto. I'm a spokesperson for Caynarades? I'm not doing commercials, just print ads, but it's a great skin care line. And I have a production company and we're producing a lot of stuff right now. "Daisy Does America." Cable movies, TV shows, we have about 9 shows in the works. Yes. It's very hard. I enjoy it, but it's very hands on. This is not a vanity project. We really get involved. It's a lot harder than doing "Friends."

Q: Do you still see all the "Friends"?

CC: They're really all my friends. I love them all. I see Jennifer a lot and Matthew and I live near each other.

Q: Do a lot of people ask you about your early appearance in the Bruce Springsteen video "Dancing in the Dark"?

CC: Yes. I'm not a dancer. I just followed Bruce Springsteen. Whatever he did, I did. At one point, he started to do a turn, a little 360 and I started to do it, and I went 'whoa! What if I fall down?' and I went back.

April 26, 2005
Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco

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